She is complicated, crackerjack smart, full of sass and dry wit. As she prepares to flee CA (aka leave for college), though, my third and youngest daughter is mostly filled with mixed emotions. Her friends, for example, are amazing until one of them plans a road trip without her and she is crushed. "But you're out of town!" I counsel, to no avail. Her family is a pain in her ass until she sees her sisters for the first time in a month and is awash in the security blanket that is their love ... when they are not viciously arguing about borrowing clothes sans permission. She's entirely "over" the privileged, boring boy-men in her county but unsure as to how to approach relationships on a campus of 30,000 undergrads. She's 100% ready/not ready.
She's not alone in that circumstance.
My pre-grieving happened when I took her to check out the college she eventually chose. So I'm all set. (Not.) Having just spent a glorious nine days with her on the East Coast (she returned yesterday; my husband and I have another week), I'm now situated firmly in the deep denial phase. I'll finally finish my passion project! I'll learn to crochet! I'll sign up for Spanish at the local community college! I'll reconnect with old friends! Stated directly, I'll be so busy doing that I won't need to feel ... which never works.
Alternatively, I can exhale and accept, viewing this time as a period of growth vs. loss. Or better yet growth by way of loss.
The inevitable mother-daughter split will heal over time and is as essential to her journey as it is to mine. Having had to previously "let go" of my two older daughters (who now happily reside together in New York City), I've had some practice. That path -- to healing wholeness while separate -- is unpredictable, uncontrollable and, often times, intolerable. But we got there.
My tale from the edge of the empty nest, then, becomes one of survival and recovery (of Self), while theirs becomes one of survival and discovery (of Self).
There's beauty in that dovetail ... right alongside the tears.